Toledo-Area Family Remembers 'Life Saving' Transplant Surgeon Killed in Crash - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Toledo-Area Family Remembers 'Life Saving' Transplant Surgeon Killed in Crash

MILWAUKEE -- Searchers hope to get special equipment on Thursday that will help them locate the wreckage of a plane crash that killed two pilots and four members of an organ transplant team from the University of Michigan.  While the entire U of M community mourns, a Toledo-area family says they'll always remember one of the doctors killed in the crash, because he's the one who brought their daughter back from death just last week.

The pilot of the twin-engine Cessna Citation jet signaled an emergency shortly after taking off from Milwaukee Monday afternoon.  Six minutes later, the Survival Flight plunged into Lake Michigan.  There were no survivors.

High winds and waves halted the search on Tuesday and Wednesday, but divers were able to bring up some of the wreckage, including portions of both wing flaps, some of the interior, and the baggage door.  The new equipment should help searchers find the cockpit voice recorder and the bulk of the wreckage.

Investigators say the pilot reported a problem with the plane's trim system, which controls bank and pitch.  It could be months before investigators know for sure what happened.

Surgery resident Dr. David Ashburn was one of the six people killed that day.  He had worked at U of M for two years, specializing in pediatric cardiothoracic surgery.  But to a Sylvania Township couple, he will always be their hero.

Katelyn Augustyniak was born last month in Toledo with two heart defects.  Her parents, Brad and Jodi Augustyniak, took her to Mott Children's Hospital at the University of Michigan for treatment.  There they met Dr. David Ashburn.

During surgery last Wednesday, Katelyn's tiny, damaged heart stopped beating.  She was in cardiac arrest.  "Instantly, I think both Brad and I felt sick to our stomachs," said Jodi Augustyniak.  "We didn't know if she'd make it."

Dr. Ashburn jumped in, performing life-saving heart compressions.  "He was a big man, he was very tall," said Jodi, "Big hands with her little heart.  Just to think he was able to do that for her, we're just so happy."

Back from the brink, Katelyn continued to improve.  She just came off the ventilator.  But for the Augustyniaks, their feelings of joy over her recovery have been tempered by the crash that took her doctor and five others.  "Things have been gradually getting better," said Brad.  "Then to hear about the tragedy... it was back to those same feelings again."

Jodi says she'll always remember the last conversation she had with Dr. Ashburn, just two days after he saved Katelyn's life.  "I saw him walking down the hallway, and I stopped him and I said, 'I just want to thank you for what you did for my daughter, because I don't think she'd be here if it wasn't for you,'" said Jodi.  "He was really humble, and he said, 'We're going to do all we can to make sure she's okay,'"

"Katelyn will grow up knowing who Dr. Ashburn is," Jodi added.  "We'll tell her stories.  We'll tell her what a life-saver [Dr. Ashburn] was for her."

"Thank you," said Brad when asked what he would say about the doctor.  "You have no idea what he meant to us, and to a lot of families."

"Some one put it nicely," said Jodi.  "They said, 'He had her heart in his hand, and now he's up in Heaven, and he still has her heart in his hand."

According to a U of M web site, David Ashburn, M.D., of Dexter, joined the University of Michigan in 2005 as a resident in pediatric cardiothoracic surgery.  He was planning to begin a fellowship in pediatric cardiovascular surgery in July.

Ashburn graduated from Quillen College of Medicine at East Tennessee State University in 1998 and went on to complete an internship and residency in general surgery at Wake Forest University.  In 2003, he finished a two-year congenital heart surgery fellowship at the University of Toronto.

He served as chief resident at Wake Forest's Bowman Gray campus from 2004-05.

Ashburn is survived by his wife, Candice, and three children.  A memorial service for David Ashburn will be held Friday, June 7th at noon at the Grace Bible Church, 1300 South Maple in Ann Arbor.

University of Michigan spokeswoman Nicole Fawcett identified the others killed in the crash:

  • Richard Chenault, transplant donation specialist
  • Dennis Hoyes, pilot
  • Richard Lapensee, transplant donation specialist
  • Bill Serra, pilot
  • Dr. Martinus Spoor, cardiac surgeon

According to a timeline from the University of Michigan, the transplant team was in Milwaukee on Monday to harvest an organ and take it back to Michigan for transplant.  The operation had already begun on the recipient when the crash happened.  That surgery was stopped, and the patient remains in critical condition.

A chief surgeon at the University of Michigan Health System hospital says it was a "very sad moment in the operating room" when they received word of the crash.

The aircraft was owned by Toy Air of Southfield, Michigan, and leased from Marlin Air, which flies Survival Flight airplane missions from Willow Run Airport.

According to a web site for Survival Flight, the unit flies an average of 1,200 patient transports, and about 150 organ donations transports by helicopter and fixed-wing jet.  The University of Michigan performs nearly 400 organ transplants per year in both adults and children.

On Thursday, the National Transportation Safety Board will bring in a locator to help find the cockpit voice recorder, which will also help investigators find the bulk of the wreckage.  "The area we're searching is approximately 50 feet of water.  The temperature of the water is approximately 55 degrees. Visibility today is relatively good," said Lt. Rich Dollhopf of the Milwaukee Police Dept.

Officials have also started a preliminary examination of the plane's history.  "We've had a chance to start our examination of the aircraft records, maintenance records and the pilot records but that is still very preliminary at this time," said John Brannen of the NTSB.

On the Web:
Crash Updates from the University of Michigan:

Posted by AEB

Additional Sources: The Associated Press, The University of Michigan

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